There’s no bad day to discover Wu-Tang

I always felt, in any town if you can get to a library, I’ll be OK.

Maya Angelou

PSA: Libraries are dope. Getting a library card doesn’t even require leaving the house and you can use it 100% online if you’re not a physical book rocker. Here are links to sign up online in PDX and TUS.

I put my library’s app on my phone. When I hear of a book or person I want to know more about, I do a quick search and in less than a minute I have a few of their books on hold.

Days or even months later, I get an email about a book that’s waiting for me to pick up.

Eventually, this book is sitting on my shelf. I might not start reading it right away, but it’s there, and when the timing right I might discover something.

This just happened with The Gift by Lewis Hyde. I have no idea why or when I put it on hold. I think it was a blog post from someone I dig referencing it as part of their path. I got an email from the library and cruised up to pick up whatever they had for me. Turns out it’s a prolific work on creativity written in the early ’80s.

The timing is perfect. I’m at my best when reading 2 books: 1 fiction or memoir (usually read at night), and 1 on the uplifting, creative, self-help, self-hype tip (typically read in the morning). I’ve been lacking a good hype read and am already feeling and seeing the benefits 2 days in.

Sometimes my holds go unread before the library wants them back. All good, wasn’t the right time. Usually, I find the space to check them out and get a dose of unknown hype thanks to that convo with a friend, podcast, article, post, tweet, or the other millions of ways we hear about cool stuff to peep.

Just started this process with adrienne maree brown who I’m totally OK admitting I only recently learned about. Her stuff is pretty sought after so I’m like hold #50 but that’s fine. I’m in line to receive her greatness.

I’m practicing stopping pretending I know about someone or feeling like I should have read their stuff years ago, sitting quietly when their name comes up. This attitude is mega-defeating, on the inside and to any progress. It’s the simple fear of asking, “Who’s that?”

Nowadays I try to ask this question openly and add something from their collection to my library holds to learn more. We can’t know what we don’t know. And this is one way to keep learning and growing as adults not forced to by work or school.

There’s no bad day to discover Wu-Tang.

“The hardest part of self-education is that there are no external rewards or structures,” writes William Upski Wimsatt in A Gourmet Guide to Self-Education from his 2nd book No More Prisons, “You must accept the responsibility that you are the student, the principal, and the superintendent.”

Upski Wimsatt goes on to share 19 ways to self-educate including keeping reading lists, setting goals, and ditching the guilt and fear tasked with holding us back from discovering new ideas.

I just love y’all and love sharing anything that might add even a touch of inspo to your already amazing brains and hearts. Writing this as a reminder to myself to keep listening, learning, and growing. If any of this helps or if you know of something I should put on hold, holler!

cr📚w

PS: More library nerding 🤓

Your new or dusted-off library card also gives you free access to stream movies on Kanopy and download audiobooks, ebooks, and access all the big newspapers and magazines with the app Libby. A solid F-you to Amazon and other companies basically repackaging and selling the library’s forever-model.

Bonus: A friend who visited recently didn’t love the Libby selection when signed via the library in her small-ish city so she loaded her old Portland library card to the app and uses that for her digital stuff. Libby is kind of a blank slate and just shows you the digital stacks of whatever library you plug into it, so her selection grew instantly.

Inner-bully ignore-bore

There’s no time to worry if we stay cruising into our dopeness, and luckily we all have countless examples of existing in this space free from self-doubt. Only when we’re questioning ourselves and our path do we have time to critique our work and situations, worrying about a tiny flaw most people probably never noticed.

Why would we bring down our vibe by focussing on an impossible and limiting level of perfection? Why add judgment to whatever we’re creating or doing, instead of letting the world experience it?

Sometimes we can’t help but feel low and these judgemental feelings come fast and easy. A big part of the practice is learning what works for us to turn them around, and being OK with feeling less hype for a bit, which can in and of itself naturally encourage a u-turn.

It’s like ignoring a bully. I call mine the inner-hater.

Alright inner-hater, I’m not feeling all hyped to write, rap, work, hang with crew… got it. Acknowledging this and breathing, sitting, or walking with it can help us get a bit of space and perspective.

Just like in middle school, when we ignore or accept what a bully is doing, the inner-hater gets bored and moves on. Leaving us to get back to doing the awesome stuff we’re here to do!

The balance for me is:

  • YES to always learning from the past and improving
  • NO to overthinking the past in ways that limit what I’m able to do right now
  • (and) INFINITY HELLLLS YEAH FOREVER 🎉 to knowing it all comes in waves

This helps me feel less shocked when the inner-hater shows up, and possibly even OK with it. Knowing it arrives and gets bored as part of this cycle of waves, and lurking behind could be a heavy dose of hype.

4me4u4cru

Writing hype // Notion nerd-out

Thought it could be fun to share a quick vid of my Notion board and talk about how it’s been helping my creative process.

Notion is a free notetaking app I just learned about thanks to my friend Alex. I can log in anytime and let my creativity fly. If I’m up for it, I’ll open a new page and write something new. More commonly, I’ll work on an idea that’s already there. One I added days or weeks ago.

Part of diving into Notion was admitting what I was doing wasn’t working. I wasn’t creating the art I supposedly love. This is a hard realization for creatives. OK, I love to write, did I spend more than 3 hours writing this week… or this month???

This method forced me to set my ego aside and learn something new. Such a creativity opener! I watched a bunch of YouTube videos and eventually learned a ton from this one (thx hermione!).

Their vid got me started, and a few more hours and a couple of free templates later, I was posting my ideas and writing, all inside Notion. When things are done I copy/paste them here or wherever else they’re headed.

Maybe this can work for the creative work you do too? Or maybe you have a different method that works best for you. Either way, I’d love to hear about it. And holler if you have any questions about using Notion. I’m happy to share what I’ve learned so far.

creW🤓 🧡

5 seconds -> owning it

Got to watch (and tape!) the live Double K celebration of life Thes One shared on Twitch today. In the span of about 3 hours, I heard the samples to dozens of my favorite People Under the Stairs songs — most of which are about 5-8 seconds taken from a weird jazz or private press cut. To think they cut songs that are sung all over the world from those 5 seconds is absolutely incredible.

holler if you want a dub

It’s another nod to the magic in artists. Anyone can buy an MPC, hit thrift stores, get records, and make stuff. But that doesn’t mean it will sound like what those 2 created. There’s magic there. Magic you can feel in all art and creative work done with feeling, rawness, and truth.

Thes One and Double K spent the time to make those 5 seconds carrrrrrrry. They had FUN to those 5 seconds. Made choruses and raps to those 5 seconds. Looped and recorded those 5 seconds. Played shows with those 5 seconds as the backdrop needing to rep all of the above (loops, raps, choruses, FUN) hard af, or not at all.

It’s a bit like the skateboard theory that comes up for me sometimes. I was never any good but what I learned for the couple of tricks I could do was there wasn’t a halfway. You either own it and do the trick, drop-in, whatever it is… or you don’t. If you halfway drop-in you are pretty much guaranteed to fall.

In terms of PUTS (and all the great rappers, artists, singers, dancers, fill-in-the-blank stuff you do that you love and you’re awesome at) — it’s owning it. Believing in the importance of what you want to share or do. From a song to a new work path. Owning it beyond the inevitable inside voices of doubt, excuses we say out loud and realize how ridiculous they sound, and of course the fear of not being well-received.

When I look inside to ask what this looks like in my life, I see a lack of owning the music and writing I do with at least as much weight (hopefully more) as the paid work I do. We must eat and for me that doesn’t come from this type of creative work, but I def benefit from time contemplating why my creative work doesn’t always get the same hype as my paid stuff. This comes up in funny ways like thinking about a random, unimportant work email when chilling before bed VS thinking about cool art stuff, fam, friends, pets… really anything besides the email!

For me, practicing the hype is continuing to call this out, laugh, and do my best to cruise back to the FUN. Thanks to my CREW for helping me along the way. ♾️💞

Danny B but me

Danny Brown seems really good at doing him.

As a mega-dork-super-fan I know he isn’t just some party rapper that gets to do whatever he wants. He worked hard af to get to this point and hasn’t slowed — same with most folks we love who stay this prolific.

After meditating or biking or some other time when the ideas seem to cruise in, I came up with the mantra “Danny B but me” and wrote it on the whiteboard in my studio.

Repping how he inspires me to be me 100%

My raps aren’t near his and I’m not fronting like they are, but I try to tap into that same part of me he might tap into, the part that is him unapologetically doing him.

For his newest album uknowhatimsayin¿ (exec produced by Q-Tip) he took this vibe and slowed way down to rep for himself even harder.

“Before I used to try and catch lightning in a bottle and make up songs in five minutes, but with Tip, it’s like, I saw him working on one snare for six hours. It means you get a better end product.”

From this pretty great Okayplayer article by Torry Threadcraft

This is growth, and growing takes time and lived experience. As we get older, we get access to more and more perspective. We can’t offer young-us this knowledge, it’s legit impossible. It needs to come naturally and always does if we’re open to it.

The hype is paying attention to the knowledge we’re always receiving and listening to the added inspo from watching heroes like Danny repping living with intention this hard.

creWwWwWwWwW

Proud soldier 🙋🏻‍♂️

ICE T’s Twitter is a pretty unique space on the internet. It’s unapologetically inspiring and shoutout to celebs with avant-garde user names like @FINALLEVEL. More hype to ignore the rules.

He uses his voice to speak truth to working hard and doing you (+ a bit of hater trashing). He even has a ‘FOR MATURE AUDIENCES’ disclaimer which feels reminiscent of back when parental advisory stickers were taking up more and more space on the covers of rap CDs in the early 90s.

This ICE Cold Fact™️ hit hard for me.

Motivation to crush is forever dope, but we can’t hide from being a soldier on the path and letting the hustle be its own recognition. It’s less comparing and more grinding. Less feeling defeated by what we aren’t or faking what we are, more recognizing our process and growth as equally valuable to any forever-changing final destination.

If you rap and aren’t Black Thought or Kendrick, you won’t ever be Black Thought or Kendrick. It’s still ok to follow your heart, have fun, and rap. Look at the thousands of rappers creating new work and adding to the culture. These are the soldiers.

ICE T is giving us permission to worry less about the end goal and just do us. This probably means having a day job and soldiering on the side. When creative work isn’t your only source of income deadlines are personal. You can take the time to make what you want and share it when you want. It’s beautiful in this way, free from external forces, with the only pressures being self-discipline and the courage to rock.

N.K. Jemisin thanked her employer in the first 2 books of the Broken Earth Trilogy, working as a psychologist while writing them. In the acknowledgments of the 3rd in the series, she says the book was written in “A time of tremendous change,” as she was able to quit her day job to write full time. She writes about missing parts of the work she did helping people through difficult times but acknowledges she still helps people, in different ways, as an author of multiple unreal-dope books. (Highly recommend her stuff! How Long ‘Til Black Future Month got me started.)

Her books are award-winning and prolific. They are written by a soldier.

ICE T gives us the ok to start. We can’t skip to being a Queen or King of our craft. And why would we even want to? Our creative work or life or whatever we love deserves nourishment.

I’ve seen this with local rappers over and over. Feeling the need to front skill and popularity and caught in a trap of fear. I’ve been this rapper. Overthinking and declining a show opportunity in Austin in 2011 instead of just showing up and rocking. It took 5 years and dozens and dozens of shows for crowds from 0* to 100 or so to reach a point where anyone beyond immediate friends cared about my raps. (*Thank you, Ashland!)

And to be honest, these shows were years ago so I’m fully back soldiering. My next show will likely be really small and I’ll need to grow from there if I want to keep performing. Coming for you Ashland!

Being a soldier is permission to rep what we rep at our level. Doing so will inevitably make us better. We can work/create/be ourselves in ways that aren’t clouded by reaching some imagined top tier. F the monarchy and let’s do us gang.

creW📣

Getting what we “need” (part 2)

From the super-recommended Keep Going by Austin Kleon

When the first Diamond District record came out in 2009 we were blown away by the rawness of the sound, specifically the way they recorded the raps. My friend emailed the producer Oddisee to see what kind of mic they used. We imagined it was being some amazing old tube mic running through a set of compressors probably used on the first Wu-Tang. He gracefully responded that it was a cheap condenser mic. Probably $100 or less, and that the mic doesn’t matter, it matters what you do with it.

I can be so guilty of this sometimes — thinking the gear an artist I love reps is a magic ticket to their quality of work when the only ticket is work itself. We’re trained to BUY! BUY!! BUY!!!! — so breaking this habit is hard, and feeding into it just enough to get what we need without going gadget-overboard can be tough to balance.

Hugh Macleod asks us to spot our “pillars” in the book Ignore Everyone. He describes them as the tools that we’re hiding behind that aren’t helping us create. Like when we tell ourselves we’ll totally make stuff once we get a new _______ .

When I first read Hugh’s piece a couple of weeks ago I made a list of my pillars which included thinking I need a new mic. I finally plugged in the mic DJ Roane gave me years ago and abso love it. I didn’t need a new mic, I needed to write raps and record them.

Also on my list is a habit of nerding out too much on this website. Thinking I need a proper logo or a better WordPress theme. It comes in waves and I always feel so much better in the times I don’t worry about it and just write.

This is hitting a bit close to home…

In Some Thoughts About Writing, Patrick Rhone goes as far as to call out this type of “personal branding” as having “ZERO to do with success.” He labels it as an excuse we hide behind to stay scared of creating and a way for others to make money off this fear by exploiting our self-induced need to pay for branding. (SO highly recommended this quick $5 read. No creativity-blocking BS is left unchecked!)

A couple of years ago Kenny Fresh tweeted about his laptop keyboard missing a letter. Same comp helping him run a label, playlist, and incredible weekly radio show.

What new gear is becoming an excuse that’s holding you back?

I hope this helps you see the barriers in your hype path and push them to the side, recognizing what is only blocking us from jumping in and getting started.

💜CRWLV🧡

Peep part 1 of this post here, on the more $pend what you need to get the stuff you want tip